2024-07-21 6:22 PM

Phil Hellmuth on Poker: 14 Gold Medals & a Poker Player Too!

I watched the 2008 Summer Olympics with awe as record-setting swimmer Michael Phelps won gold medal after gold medal. In one race, it was Phelps by a country mile.

In another, Phelps’ relay teammates chased down the world’s fastest swimmers at the last possible second for yet another win.


I made my sons watch each event with me as I knew we’d be witnessing something truly historic. And then there was that one race that simply defied explanation.

It looked to the world that Phelps was beaten in the 100 meter butterfly but somehow he used an unconventional half-stroke to beat Serbian swimmer Milorad Cavic by a mere fingernail. Amazing!

Phelps finished the 2008 Olympics with an astonishing eight gold medals including four individual world records and three team world marks.

Word soon got out that Phelps was also an avid poker player and fan. Well, I certainly took notice of that. A few months after the Olympics, I was in Las Vegas when Phelps asked to meet me.

I’ve met some of the most famous celebrities in the world but Michael Phelps was the first person I’ve ever met with whom I was totally star-struck!

Phelps clearly knows how to play Texas Hold’em. In fact, the day after I met him he made the final table in a 300-player tournament at Caesars Palace. I’m now trying to get him to play at the upcoming UltimateBet.com Aruba Poker Classic but we’ll have to wait and see how that turns out.

Anyway, Phelps played a big pot in the tournament that I thought was pretty interesting.

The blinds were $500/$1,000 with a $125 ante. Player A moved all-in for $5,000 from the first position with K-6 offsuit. The next players folded around to Phelps who pushed all-in from the small blind for $29,000 with 9h-9d. Player B in the big blind tanked for a moment then called $28,000 more with A-7 offsuit.

All cards were flipped over and the flop came 10-9-6. What a great flop for Phelps and his pocket nines! The turn card was a scary jack so Phelps could now lose to an eight or a queen on the river.

And, of course, the river card was an eight. Let’s recap.

I don’t like Player A’s all-in move under the gun with K-6. That hand should have been folded. He would have been in the big blind the very next hand and who knows what would have happened then. Perhaps a player in late position would have raised it up with 2-2, Q-J, or even a bluff and Player A would have found himself a favorite to win a $10,000 pot. Or, he could have folded both blind hands. In that case, he’d have had $3,000 left and the button with as many as seven hands he could choose to play.

The $29,000 all-in move by Phelps was a solid play as he only had Player B in the big blind to fear. Phelps’ shove was a crystal clear signal to Player B that he indeed had a strong hand.

I hate Player B’s $28,000 call with A-7. He obviously didn’t get the meaning of Phelps’ bet. At the time, Player B only had $1,000 invested in the pot. There was just no good reason to risk $28,000 more with a weak hand like A-7 offsuit.

If poker pro Mike “The Mouth” Matusow had seen that play, he surely would have screamed at Player B, “Are you insane?”

Michael Phelps truly has a ton of poker talent. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win a few WSOP championship bracelets to go along with his 14 Olympic gold medals!

Learn more about Phil Hellmuth and Poker Brat poker merchandise at www.philhellmuth.com.

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